Several months ago, a guy stood in front of a packed crowd in the attic of the Schoolhouse. His black hair in a mess with his face and arms covered in green, red and black paint. He played a steel top acoustic guitar that looked like it had been through Vietnam and had horrifying stories to tell as it downed whiskey shots at the bar.
With a voice that was at times violently shouting and other times quivering, he sang like Tom Waits and Jello Biafra from the Dead Kennedys had fused vocal chords in a freak science experiment gone awesome. He broke the fourth wall by falling over into the crowd like a drunk trying to stumble home. Speaking to the crowd with a haiku kind of speech pattern he cracked jokes and elicited audience members to hold on to his water cup. This was my first experience of New Science Projects.
NSP is the stage name of Dale Jones, a one man mosh pit who gives out tambourines to the audience to play percussion for him as he belts out lyrics mostly centered on death and suicide. These dark and gloomy themes could easily make a person depressed but when the whole audience sings along it is insanely fun.
Nominated for this year’s Dallas Observer award for Best Blues Act, Jones is beginning to get noticed. With more attention comes larger audiences and you can only scream so loud before you need a microphone. So NSP is starting to change it up a little with the addition of a backing band and going electric but is staying true to the minimalist approach. I got a chance to ask Jones a few questions about this mysterious character that he has created.
MDM: How did you come up with your onstage persona and why do you wear war paint?
NSP: I don't have a rehearsed idea for what my set should be like - most of the time I don't even practice the songs. The idea that I have a stage persona is a bit of a misunderstanding. I am usually someone who over thinks things, but in NSP I try to think as little as possible. Also, I have terrible stage fright - I try to turn off my brain before each show to get around this. As a result, I don't have full control over myself and usually can't even remember my sets a few hours after the show. I can't say that I am fully responsible for my actions.
About the makeup, I like it. It helps me disassociate from my day to day. Putting it on before a performance is a nice little ritual.
MDM: Most of your songs feature lyrics centered on death or suicide, are these from personal experience?
NSP: The world is a terrible place. People say I'm a negative person. Think of anything you want, and I can come up with a reason why you should hate yourself for it. But this sort of condescension isn't only reserved for other people - I also apply it to myself.
I usually write a song in one sitting, in the moment, without much editing later on. I don't try to write about one thing or another. I can't help it if I'm influenced by the things around me.
MDM: What music do you listen to and how does it inspire your songs?
NSP: I listen to a lot of music, some of it recorded. I feel like I'm constantly ripping off everyone, and I am. There are only so many songs you can write on a guitar. I feel like my music is mostly a rip-off of old fogies like Son House and Paul Simon and old punks like the Ramones and the Damned, maybe. We are living in the hand-me-down generation.
MDM: Poison Culture is my favorite song of yours, what is the back story of it?
NSP: Poison Culture is a fun tune. It's mostly about religious sexual abuse and is a general cumming of age story. I would elaborate but I am not sure of the standards of your employers and I'm sure that if any readers were interested the nearest search engine could provide plenty to slake their lust, probably with illustrations.
MDM: Your shows are so personal because you stand with the audience instead of on a stage, what’s your favorite venue to play?
NSP: I do enjoy standing even with the audience. I don't think my music is really stage material, and being a generally acoustic person, mingling with the crowd is very easy. I have recently been working with a full band for NSP and we're trying to make our set floor-friendly. I like the idea of playing near to people and getting them involved in the act rather than having them stand around watching me. Wouldn't you rather fuck than masturbate?
As for a favorite place to play, I don't know. Every show is different. I really like playing in Denton, however. 1919 Hemphill is nice in Ft. Worth. I really prefer house shows over traditional venues, as long as the shows aren't just keggers. There was a great house in Fayetteville and a great house in Indianapolis and a great house in Portland and a great house in Detroit and a great house in Rochester and on and on and on...
MDM: If you could open for any act ever, who would it be?
NSP: Hm, who would pay the most? U2? A revived and reunited Led Zeppelin? The Backstreet Boys? I would open for SPONGEBOB: LIVE! if it meant I could afford to keep writing songs a while longer.
Check out his act at the Space Studio in Dallas
DC9 in SPACE: New Science Projects from Dallas Observer on Vimeo.